North Narooma resident Bill Braines has finally got some answers about the logging operation that took place last year around his property off Wagonga Scenic Drive.
The Environmental Protection Authority launched an investigation into the logging operation after neighbours and bicycle users back in February 2016 expressed concern over the logging operation in the tourist area known as the Box Cutting Rainforest Walk.
The logging operation was in the Bodalla State Forest compartment 3027 just north of Narooma and west of Kianga, and those concerned were upset the harvest was clearly visible from the roadway that is an important tourism asset for the region.
Mr Braines went on record that he was upset that the Forestry Corporation and its contractor appeared not to be following regulations and rules, such as those relating to 50-metre wide buffer zones.
He approached forestry at the beginning of the operation pointing out the tourism value and need for the buffer zone but he alleges that the contractors ignored him. He said would proposed logging operations to go to public consultation.
“They put this visual buffer zone in the plans but they are not honouring it – to me that is deception,” he said.
He alleges that forestry contractors failed to place habitat protection markers on the initial harvest plan, which led to the destruction of gang gang cockatoo nesting trees. He said dead baby cockatoos were found in the area.
The EPA visited the site not long after his complaints and checked using GPS his allegation that the logging extended onto private property. Mr Braines also alleges that an area set aside for the protection of the giant burrowing frog was also entered by the logging contractors.
A spokesperson for the Environmental Protection Authority confirmed it conducted three site inspections and identified an incursion of approximately 6m² into an exclusion zone. The investigations found that the environmental risk of the small incursion was low and issued Forestry Corporation of NSW with a warning letter, the EPA spokesperson said.
Regarding the failure of the GPS system, the EPA spokesperson said in this case GPS error could have contributed to the incursion.
“While a valuable tool, it is understood that a GPS can have a margin of error,” the spokesperson said. “The EPA expects that Forestry Corporation of NSW will manage the risks stemming from GPS error in such situations.”
Mr Braines also alleged he received previous correspondence from a Dr Sandie Jones within the EPA confirming that a habitat tree was felled, but the investigation did not confirm this.
Following questions put to it by the Narooma News, the EPA spokesperson said site investigations found that two trees with hollows were felled in the vicinity, but the authority was unable to determine if these trees were being used by gang-gang cockatoos for nesting.
“The EPA will be discussing these matters with Forestry Corporation of NSW to underline the need for protection of gang-gang nesting habitat in future operations,” the spokesperson said.
Mr Braines and others remain upset that a 50m buffer zone was not left either side of Wagonga Scenic Drive and this also did not appear to be addressed in the investigation.
“The EPA understands that some local residents are concerned about logging in visual amenity buffers near Wagonga Drive,” the EPA spokesperson said. “Although there is no prohibition on logging in visual amenity buffer zones, the EPA is encouraging Forestry Corporation of NSW to engage with the community on these matters.”
Mr Braines said it was ironic that Wagonga Scenic Drive was listed as a “recreational facility” on the Forestry Corporation website, given how badly it was treated by the logging contractor.
One positive is that he was visited by a local Narooma area Forestry Corporation manager earlier this month, who listened to his concerns and promised to take them on board. Mr Braines however remains unhappy.
“What is happening here in this compartment is symptomatic of what is happening all around our region and state,” he said. “What is happening with these procedures is endemic within the industry and that is why the Regional Forestry Agreement is a complete farce.”
He said the amount of taxpayers money going into subsidising logging operations and keeping the RFA going was ludicrous and that whole system needed to be reviewed.